Friday, February 29, 2008

When Hillary was a convenient no-show for the telecom immunity vote, she became toast to me. When she recently accused Obama of plagiarism and the audience booed, she might have then become toast, period. The "charge" was so obviously baseless and transparently desperate that she should have retracted it as soon as she said it. Her desire to win at all costs has not risen to anywhere near Rovian heights in terms of the use of lies and slime, but it appears to be heading in that direction. Needless to say, for shame.

What is most obvious at this point is Hillary has managed to repeat the screw-ups and strategic missteps of her husband's former VP in his run for office. Both she and Gore are terrific candidates who put together extremely flawed campaigns.

At least Gore had the excuse of Bill's baggage and going up against the beyond-the-pale tactics of Rove -- Hillary has no such easy outs, but rather just inept planning and the hubris in believing she was easily going to take the nomination, no problem.

Oh well, if she fails in her quest she has only herself to blame.
You've got to be kidding me. In its infinite wisdom, the IRS has decided to investigate Obama's church after he recently gave a speech there. Something about tax-exempt status, religion, and politics.

If you needed any more proof that over the last eight years this administration has worked to politicize every branch and department of government, then this is it. Given all of the blending and mixing of politics with religion that has occurred over the years with the likes of James Dobson, Pat Robertson, and Jerry Falwell (at the time), are you telling me the IRS never had a reason to launch investigations then but for some reason feels it must do so now with Obama? What a farce.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Obama speaks tough on terrorism and the right attacks him. Kevin Drum says, "The dynamics here are certainly turning deeply weird, aren't they?" and that the candidates may start "bending themselves into a pretzel" concerning the issues.

Things have been weird for some time now, particularly for McCain and the GOP. I've used the word "pretzel" repeatedly for months to describe the current state of politicking, as the far right has forced McCain to twist and contort on positions in hopes of appeasing the strident base (threw olive branch to religious right, tax cut waffling, waterboard/torture flip-flop, to name a few). Now we see the right criticizing the endorsement of seeking out and destroying terrorists simply because the other side favors it. What next from the kooky far right? And will McCain twist so much he'll eventually snap?

Obama should be fully prepared to expose the two-sided mouth of McCain. Straight-talking maverick, my arse.

Speaking of McCain, looks like he's run into quite a few problems (click here and here and here).
I agree with Dee Dee Myers when she said two nights ago on Keith Olbermann, "this campaign has been mostly incredibly civil on both sides. I think the Obama campaign and Clinton campaign have run a largely civil campaign." Given the stakes at hand, this Dem race has seen nothing like the scumball tactics employed by the Atwater/Rove school of winning. To a large extent, the media simply amplifies the most mundane skirmishes in hopes of drumming up some excitement, some chatter, some buzz.

You want to see crass, down-and-dirty swill throwing then just wait to see what the GOP machine does to the eventual Dem candidate. It will make the Obama/Hillary nonsense look like innocent child play.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

With John Edwards out of the picture, I wondered who Ralph Nader would endorse next. No need to wonder anymore, Ralph has apparently endorsed himself. Yawn.

Keeping his questionable intentions aside, I'm not even sure of the logic here. Why endorse Edwards only to then run yourself? Does he want us to believe that Edwards was this vehicle for tremendous change and if not him then gosh darn it I must run? What? Look, Edwards was a terrific candidate but by no means would I have described him as the figure to revolutionize the Democratic party, at least in the ways that Nader has described in the past. Given the litany of complaints that Ralph has articulated about both political parties, calling for massive changes on a grand scale, it's clear that when he endorsed Edwards he was settling -- something he seemingly vowed he would never do. So first he caves and goes with a fairly conventional candidate, and after that doesn't work out he reverts to the all-the-parties-suck, all-the-candidates-suck, I-and-only-I-can-make-a-difference-and-thus-must-run mode.

Again, yawn.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Pretzel Logic

Wow, you talk about a flip-flop. Mr. Strait Talk has been adamantly against waterboarding, but that didn't stop McCain from voting against its ban this past week. I guess he chose politics over principle, throwing another bone to the far right folks he's desperately trying to win over. Raise your hand if you want someone in the White House who will spend four more years trying to appease this crazed faction of the GOP....

I had to laugh, Newsweek had a story on how much McCain will have to twist and squirm to win over the right and yet not completely alienate the moderates and independents. We're talking a pretzel dance. Representing the right were captions of notable figures: James Dobson, Ann Coulter, Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Laura Ingraham, Michelle Malkin, and Glenn Beck. What an illustrious crew! If you're on the right, are you proud to have these characters representing your side, your views? If so, you need your head examined.

It used to be the right was known for Barry Goldwater, William F. Buckley Jr., and Ronald Reagan. It's gone from the semi-reasonable to cartoonish crackpots -- what progress! As the world becomes more global and complicated, the right becomes more simple-minded and intolerant, appealing to ever fewer people (thankfully). With any luck they'll eventually be inconsequential, just a bunch of nattering malcontents screaming into an empty void.
Our E.P.A., the federal agency in charge of insuring our environment is safe and clean, just continues to lose one court decision after another. The latest involves mercury emissions. A three-judge panel basically said "Enough!" with the pussy-footing and word chicanery. It was noted that this panel was anything but a liberal court.

The EPA continues to be a conduit for big business and not a protectorate for the people.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

The retroactive telecom immunity passed 61-37 in the Senate. McCain voted against the removal of immunity -- no surprise there as he continued his attempts to woo the base. Obama voted for for the removal -- bravo! And as for Hillary, well she didn't vote.

Huh? I'm sure she had a good reason for missing what was to be one of the more important Senate votes in recent memory, right? Hmm, I wonder what she believed was more important....

Look, this was a must-vote. Her abstaining speaks volumes. Much has been written about how her campaign has been filled to the brim with telecom contributions. Do we really need four more years of blatant corporate enabling?

But what about the so-called "rule of law" that the other side hounded her husband with for years? Hell, they impeached Bill over lying about a BJ! Yet here she was apparently too busy to uphold the last remnants of our Constitution. What courage! What independence!

Obama has just moved that much closer to being my pick in November. This unfortunate pass by Hillary is unforgivable.

Oh, and notice the only other senator to abstain? Lindsey Graham. Why wouldn't he vote with all of the other Republicans? Yup, I think he's going to be McCain's running mate (McCain needs to win over the rabid right, not Graham, who can keep some distance from the third rail).
I have a question: with all of these polls that show McCain near dead-even when up against Clinton or Obama in November, just who exactly are the polls sampling? Are they asking a 50/50 representation of Republican and Democratic voters, to insure a fair distribution? If so, then these polls are likely to be highly deceptive.

If there's one thing for certain we've seen this primary season it's the Dem voters are showing up in droves, far outnumbering Republican voters. On Super Tuesday, I believe the number was about 15 million Dem voters to 9 million GOP voters -- quite a large difference. So if we assume this variance in turnout carries through into November, then it will most certainly prove these McCain vs. Hillary/Obama polls wrong, again assuming the polls are making an effort to ask equal numbers of both Republicans and Democrats.

For this reason it likely explains why INTRADE has the odds at 66% that the eventual Democrat will beat the eventual Republican in November. It's all about voter turnout.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

I've said it before I'll say it again, today's GOP is so extreme and delusional that if Ronald Reagan were alive today in sheep's clothing the party would reject him. They have fallen so in love with this myth they've created about The Gipper that they have no ability to objectively see the man for what he actually did. Frankly, Reagan of the '80s wouldn't recognize the brand of conservatism being flouted today by the likes of Limbaugh, Hannity, Dobson and the rest of the intolerant right.

With the associated demands the base is placing on any Republican candidate to go hard right, who if anyone has a chance of getting elected by the more moderate voters in November? And what are McCain's sins? He believes in global warming, he believes in campaign finance reform, he was against the tax cuts for the wealthy before he was for them, he doesn't demonize illegal immigrants -- yeah, these are all heinous things, boo, hiss!

You hear several of the far right "thinkers" suggest that it will be better if Hillary or Obama get in the White House as opposed to McCain. The belief is all of them will be a disaster, but better for it to be a Democrat, this way allowing for a huge conservative rebound come 2012.

Uh, there might be a few problems with that assumption. For one, I'll remind the incumbent has huge advantages. We've had two-term presidents three times since just 1980 -- that's pretty amazing! So be my guest in blessing Obama or Hillary. Also, the assumption is Hillary or Obama will be a disaster -- well, we'll see. Lord knows it can't be any worse than Bush/Cheney's reign. And finally, with this expectation that people will flock to the conservatives if the next president does fail, that's a huge pipe dream. The public won't forget the eight years of Bush representing conservative rule, with all the incompetence and fascism that it wrought. If anything, the fed-up public would be more likely to go left or strong independent, towards a Bloomberg or dare I say Nader.

But go ahead Rush and Sean, you guys keep bashing McCain and assuming the Dem president will be a disaster. Based on your track records of getting things right, the Dem will do wonderfully.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Don't look now but Ralphie boy may give it another go.

I tend to agree with Melissa McEwan when she said, "I'd have a lot more respect for him if he made a concerted effort to make this point--and endeavored to either galvanize a vibrant third party or progressivize the Democratic party--in between elections, instead of popping up once every four years to indulge a vanity campaign."

Very true. Where was he the last 7+ years as this nation got ruined, and we were supposedly going to learn our lesson but good by it and suddenly go progressive big-time....? Looks to me like we're just going back to the types of Democrats (Hillary, Obama) we've seen before (Gore, Kerry, etc.). No great shakes. I guess we need the likes of Bush/Cheney for eight more years to really teach us a lesson, huh Ralph? Ralph? You there?
Much of this is review, but it's always worth a refresher look.
In the summer of 2003, Warren Bass, an investigator for the 9/11 Commission, was digging through highly classified National Security Council documents when he came across a trove of material that startled him. Buried in the files of former White House counterterrorism czar Richard Clarke, the documents seemed to confirm charges that the Bush White House had ignored repeated warnings about the threat posed by Osama bin Laden. Clarke, it turned out, had bombarded national-security adviser Condoleezza Rice in the summer of 2001 with impassioned e-mails and memos warning of an Al Qaeda attack—and urging a more forceful U.S. government response. One e-mail jumped out: it pleaded with officials to imagine how they would feel after a tragedy where "hundreds of Americans lay dead in several countries, including the U.S.," adding that "that future day could happen at any time." The memo was written on Tuesday, Sept. 4, 2001—just one week before the attacks on New York's World Trade Center and the Pentagon.
Clarke "had bombarded" Rice with warnings. It still boggles the mind.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

In his most recent blog entry, Dick Polman makes (as usual) good points:

1) He points out Romney spent a whopping $125K per delegate received. You think that's bad, Rudy spent $60 million for his one delegate!

2) He believes Romney "has probably calculated that McCain will lose this year, allowing him to retool himself for 2012 as Ronald Reagan 2.0." Yes, very likely. Say what you will about Romney, he's not a complete fool and is pretty shrewd. However, that may not help him if his religion continues to be a problem in his party.

3) He says there's no way that Hillary will pick Obama as a VP and vice-versa. Initially, I thought either candidate would go for it because it would serve to synergistically juice the ticket, creating a 1+1=3 force to be reckoned with. Yet, I lost sight of the political realities of inflated egos and power struggles, as Dick plainly makes clear. Hillary is not likely to want another person (in addition to her husband) who could very well upstage her for four years. Also, if she were the nominee, she would no longer necessarily need Obama's racial appeal in November (vs. McCain?!). As for Obama picking Hillary to be VP, Polman asks what's in it for Hillary? She spent eight years in a secondary role with her husband's two terms and then spent time as senator waiting to go for the #1 spot. Will she now agree to a VP slot? Yes, Obama could use some of the Clinton name to win over X number of voters and not exactly a huge minus getting Bill along in the deal. But if Hillary says yes to VP, then that's potentially eight years of second fiddle staring at her. She may do as Romney and just retool, shooting for 2012.
Shouldn't criminal proceedings already be in progress?

Friday, February 08, 2008

The great Dan Froomkin is on a roll.
Putting aside for a moment the question of whether the ends did in fact justify the means -- and there is considerable evidence that the waterboarding of those three men miserably failed that test as well -- the White House argument is deeply perverse and goes against core American values.

Waterboarding is undeniably cruel. It is undeniably an assault on human dignity. The Eighth Amendment to the Constitution -- the one banning cruel and unusual punishment -- doesn't come with an asterisk indicating: Except when you think it's really, really important.
[T]he White House argues that waterboarding is legal because the Justice Department said so. But waterboarding is flatly, objectively illegal -- according to both U.S. and international law. Try to find one independent expert to tell you otherwise.
The proverbial asterisk doesn't just apply to Barry Bonds. This administration has ruled the land as if asterisks apply at every turn, whether it be torture is tolerable in certain cases, or signing statements that cut out the influence of an entire branch of government, or redacted documents keeping citizens in the dark, or deleted emails....

So apparently the "new" AG has deemed waterboarding sort of, kind of legal -- this after balking on the issue for many weeks when asked by Congress. Mukasey clearly must have known this illegal method of torture was used in the past and had to somehow protect his bosses, as opposed to protecting and enforcing our system of laws (his job!). We go from an ineffectual, dunce-cap lackey in AG Gonzo to a Justice Department that really hasn't reformed much since Fredo's departure. Anyone surprised?

Rob Freer of Amnesty International writes:
Waterboarding -- where detainees are subjected to simulated drowning -- is torture. Torture is a crime under international law. Yet, no one has been held accountable for the authorization and use of waterboarding by U.S. personnel.
Haven't we headed down this twisted road at least once before with the Iran-Contra scandal, where you basically had people within our government try to make the case that their illegal actions were acceptable in this specific instance or under these special circumstances, much of it draped with rah-rah patriotism, that the ends were justifiable and brimming with good intentions, therefore it was OK to have broken laws? I didn't realize our legal system could be so yielding....

It's hilarious that this same crowd would exclaim "rule of law" repeatedly concerning Clinton's sexual transgression, but you don't hear a peep from these folks now with this obvious and overt breaking of the law with waterboarding use. I would venture to say that's because it was never about the law at all, but rather it was about the hatred for one man. Truly abhorrent.

Well, at least it's comforting to note that McCain has been outspoken in his condemnation for waterboarding. It will be interesting to see if he says anything about these revelations. And recall that Sen. Lindsey Graham likewise had strong concerns about the use of waterboarding, bringing up the very real hypothetical of what would we do if it were used on one of our soldiers. I believe we're staring at the GOP prez/VP ticket with those two guys so again I would be very interested to hear what they have to say about this matter.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Dan Froomkin wrote yesterday:
President Bush used to say it all the time: "The job of the President is to confront problems, not to pass them on to future Presidents and future generations."

But his legacy will be precisely the opposite. He will have created problems that he then passed on to his successors unresolved.

Exhibit A is, of course, Iraq. But Exhibit B may well be the budget.
Don't stop there Dan! There's global warming, healthcare reform, capturing Osama bin Laden, New Orleans, the U.S. standing in the world, etc. The list goes on and on, with the next president likely spending much of his/her four years rectifying and mopping up the many messes GW created or chose to ignore. For shame.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Because Bush 1) must act like a petty dictator, 2) must abuse our legal system, and 3) apparently has a grudge or a thing against whales.
The California Coastal Commission argued in federal court Tuesday that President Bush violated the U.S. Constitution by trying to overturn a court order that restricted the Navy's use of a type of sonar linked to the deaths of marine mammals.

The commission's attorneys said Bush's move to exempt the Navy sonar training exercises in Southern California waters from federal law violated the Constitution's separation-of-powers doctrine.

"The notion that the president can act like some medieval autocrat and impose the law as he sees it violates the fundamental basis of the American Constitution," said Atty. Gen. Jerry Brown, whose staff lawyers represent the commission. "There are three branches of government. Each of the branches has to be respected."
And even more proof of how the Iraq experiment has left us more vulnerable and less safe here at home.
The U.S. military is not prepared to meet catastrophic threats at home, and it is suffering from an "appalling gap" in forces able to respond to chemical, biological and nuclear strikes on U.S. soil, according to a congressional commission report released yesterday.

The situation is rooted in severe readiness problems in National Guard and reserve forces, which would otherwise be well-suited to respond to domestic crises but lack sufficient personnel and training, as well as $48 billion in equipment because of deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan, according to a report by the Commission on the National Guard and Reserves.
Just another small item left for the next president to deal with....
Newsweek's Sharon Begley pens an interesting article about the math behind elections. As one of the mathematicians cited in the piece says, "election outcomes can more accurately reflect the choice of an election rule than the voters' wishes." Depending upon how the election rules are fashioned, you can get very different results based on the same set of candidates. That's a disturbing reality.
Our pick-your-favorite system, known as plurality voting, "may produce a winner who is the least acceptable to the majority of [GOP] voters," says Steven Brams of New York University, a pioneer in the application of math to voting. That happened in the 2000 presidential election, when Ralph Nader got about 95,000 votes in Florida. George W. Bush's winning margin was about 500. "Since a significant majority of Nader voters preferred Al Gore to Bush," says Brams, "the winner was the candidate least preferred by most voters."
Yikes! I believe at the time Nader not only fully knew about the above "flaw" in our system, but he's been quite public about saying we needed a president as horrible as Bush to wake us up, or to ignite the Democrats who in his mind became too much like the Republicans.

Lovely. Environment wrecked, Constitution pissed on, countless people dead, exploding debt, millions more without healthcare, U.S. global standing in the toilet -- thanks for exploiting that "flaw" Ralphie! Did it work to your liking?

Meanwhile, with Nader's prior endorsed candidate (Edwards) out of the picture, who will Ralph endorse now? Is he going to claim that he can't endorse any of the remaining candidates because they're much less progressive than Edwards? Will anyone honestly believe that red herring? Heck, the National Journal just rated Obama the #1 liberal senator in the country. Hillary ranked 16th.

It's hard to believe Edwards symbolized that great change Nader was looking for in the Democratic Party and yet Obama or Hillary are out of the question. We'll see what Ralph decides this time (yawn).

Monday, February 04, 2008

Congrats to the NY Giants for pulling off one of the biggest upsets in sports. It doesn't quite surpass the Joe Namath Super Bowl or the USA hockey team beating the USSR in 1980, but it comes close. With the Mannings, we're now seeing a family dynasty be built (vs. team); expect to see the three of them in many ads. A huge reason for the Giants' Cinderella run and Super Bowl win is due to their defensive coordinator Spagnuolo (can anyone recall Brady ever looking so perplexed or under such intense pressure?), who will most likely be head coaching the Redskins next year. Oh, and you know what this loss makes the Pats? 18-1, still not too shabby.